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No End In Sight

Angus Hall

One of Ontario’s all-time leading trotting sires, who would know Angus Hall better than the man who oversaw most of the stallion’s career at Winbak Canada?

Larry Drysdale, the former Stallion Manager at one of Canada’s largest Standardbred farms, shares his fond memories of the stallion who was always a real gentleman and a true professional in the barn. By Melissa Keith

Winbak Farm of Canada is home to a longstanding star of Canadian trotting, Angus Hall. The attractive bay stallion has been based at the Caledon, Ontario location for most of his stud career. Larry Drysdale is the now-retired stallion manager who oversaw the new arrival from Glengate Farms all of those years ago: “In 2006, in January, that’s when he joined Winbak. He was a treat to be around, he really was. Anybody could handle him.”

This year, the still-active Angus Hall is following family tradition: The 23-year-old stallion is a 2019 inductee to the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame. He joins his sire, Garland Lobell, who was named to Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame in 2005 and the Harness Racing Hall of Fame in Goshen, NY in 2015. Surprisingly, Amour Angus, Angus Hall’s dam, is not in the Canadian Hall of Fame, although she was named to the U.S. Hall of Fame in 2008, a year before her passing.

Another tradition stems from Angus Hall’s lineage - trotting speed, and the ability to pass it along to offspring of both sexes. During the Quebec-based years of their breeding careers, the pairing of Garland Lobell and Amour Angus was genetic dynamite.

Their first foal was 1994 Canadian Horse of the Year Emilie Cas El (3,1:57.1f; $454,688),
who was undefeated at age two. No other two-year-old trotter has ever been voted O’Brien Horse of the Year.

Angus Hall is Amour Angus’ fourth foal by Garland Lobell. His name is a hybrid of his dam’s birthplace, (Ferme Angus of Bedford, Quebec) and his own (Walnut Hall of Lexington, Kentucky). In two years of racing, the flashy colt won 8 of 26 starts, bringing home $830,654 in purses.

As a freshman, in 1998, he won the Champlain Stakes at Woodbine, a division of the Valley Victory at Garden State Park, and took his 1:54.4z mark in an elimination of the Breeders Crown at Colonial Downs. That record made him - for one week - the sport’s fastest freshman trotter, before CR Commando rewrote the World Record in the Breeders Crown Two-Year-Old Colt Trot final, winning in 1:53.2 - a race in which Angus finished third, individually timed in 1:54.3.

A 1999 Hambletonian elimination winner, Angus Hall ended up second to his stable entry-mate, Self Possessed, in what was then the fastest-ever mile by a three-year-old trotter (1:51.3). He finished second to Self Possessed three times that season, individually clocked in 1:52.3 each time.

While he was one of the best trotting colts of his generation, it was as a sire that Angus Hall put his excellence into the record books. Drysdale remembered the young stallion being “a great sire and a perfect gentleman” from the start. “My wife, Jackie, was office manager at Winbak, and she would spoil the boys [stallions]. He would shake his head and go crazy when he heard her voice,” he told TROT. “And my grandkids were only
three and five-years-old, and he would take the carrots out of their hand, so gently.”

Angus Hall’s first crop was headlined by a petite filly known for blistering bursts of both speed and temper: Peaceful Way (1:51.4; $3,245,055; 2008 Canadian Hall of Fame inductee). Drysdale observed that she evidently inherited athletic ability, but not personality, from her gentle sire. “When I would go to training centres, trainers would always say they were ‘headstrong’ and stuff like that,” he noted. “I’d say, ‘It sure doesn’t seem like it comes from the sire!’ There were some crosses that you had to watch - for some reason it doesn’t seem he crossed well with Balanced Image mares [for foal temperament].”

In addition to his kind nature, Angus Hall was blessed with impressive fertility. “What’s amazing is he is a very concentrated horse. You never had to worry,” explained Drysdale. “I was just joking around, but I used to say, ‘If you can’t get your mare in foal to ‘Angus’, it’s time you got rid of your mare or your vet!’” Now a robust 23-year-old, Angus Hall still stands for a $6,000 stud fee, indicative of his ongoing success in the breeding shed. “In general, when they get to that age, they have to be private treaty,” said Winbak’s former stallion manager.

The new Hall of Famer is assured of a comfortable retirement, whenever that day arrives. Drysdale said that while some older stallions are moved to less-prestigious farms if their numbers decrease due to age, “That will never happen with him because Bob and Lynda Stewart are the largest shareholders on him, in the syndicate, and they always said he was too good to them and everybody else. They would never let that happen.”

A few years ago, Angus Hall actually faced a serious threat to his health. “He had an eye infection that we treated four times a day,” recalled Drysdale. “He had to go to [the University of ] Guelph, back and forth. They would look at him and give us the medications that he should go on. We continued with that, but it just got worse.” Despite receiving expert care from the Ontario Veterinary College equine clinic, the condition did not improve. “He lost his eye; this breeding season now is around his fourth year since he had his eye out,” noted Drysdale.

Despite his reduced vision, Angus Hall remains a gentle and professional horse to work around, even in the breeding shed, says Larry. “He’s been really good... when he went to mount the phantom, he remained aware - he never lost a step.” Active in 2019, the popular trotting sire was fourth among all Ontario Sires Stakes trotting stallions for 2018. “I looked at the [mare] numbers the other day and he’s not doing bad at all,” said Drysdale. “He’s going to be a top broodmare sire [too], there’s no doubt.”

Remarkably, the Garland Lobell x Amour Angus cross produced two more colts who became top racehorses and sires. Andover Hall (3,1:51.3; $875,047) stands for $6,000 at Hanover Shoe Farms, while Conway Hall (3,1:53.4; $818,884) is a Walnut Hall-managed stallion who stands for a $5,000 fee at Leatherstocking Equine Centre in New York State.

After years working with Winbak of Canada’s numerous successful stallions, Drysdale remained impressed by the family’s unique legacy: “I remember [breeder] Dave Anderson telling me, that’s unheard of in any breed - three successful full brothers. It’s unbelievable.”

Angus Hall’s Hall of Fame induction was actually a bit unexpected by the man who knows the horse best. “I was surprised - Pat Woods, the new farm manager, told me, and I said, ‘He’s not in the Hall of Fame already?’” recalled Drysdale. “Maybe because he is owned by a syndicate, and if they are owned by an individual the owner is always writing [nomination letters].”

Abundant nomination letters or not, Angus Hall’s resume is indisputable: He led all Ontario trotting stallions from 2003-2007, was second from 2008-2012, and has never been out of the top 10 O.S.S. sires by offspring earnings. With six millionaires to his credit, including dominant Southern Hemisphere trotting sire Majestic Son (3,1:52.2s; $1,993,157), it’s safe to say there’s no end in sight for the one-eyed stallion’s influence on the breed.

This feature originally appeared in the June issue of TROT Magazine.
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